Letters to the editor | VailDaily.com

Letters to the editor

Kim Burner

This year there is a huge amount of news about the separation of church and state, more than any other year in my memory, in the media.Let me say up front that I believe completely in freedom of religion and the theory of separation of church and state. History is full of examples where this is not the case and one entity has been ruled by the other leading to horrific results.I also believe that as Americans we have a responsibility (not to mention that pesky little right of freedom of speech) to voice our beliefs, whether they are political, religious, or social. So when I heard of Eagle Valley Middle School student getting a behavior concern for saying “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night,” I decided it was time to speak up.It’s Christmas, which for all who have forgotten is not about presents, Santa or how much money the retailers can make. It is about celebrating the birth of Christ. This IS a religious holiday celebrated by Christians around the globe. How many Christians are there in the U.S.? To find out, I went to http://www.census.gov where a 2002 Gallup poll is published. According to this Gallup pole, 80 percent of Americans claim Christianity as their main religious belief structure. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Atheism make up the lions share of the remaining 20 percent. As well as the Gallop pole, http://www.census.gov directed me to a Web site at http://www.adherents.com, there I found worldwide religious statistics. According to Adherents.com, the world’s major religions, ranked by number of adherents, are as follows: Christianity 33 percent, Islam 22 percent, Hinduism 15 percent, Nonreligious (including agnostics, secular humanists and atheists) 14 percent, Buddhism 6 percent, Chinese traditional 4 percent, primal-indigenous including African 4 percent and “other” 3 percent.These statistics tell me that the majority of humans, especially Americans, believe that Christ is the only begotten son of God and recognize him as our savior. Not everyone agrees with that, and they have that right.Here is the question I would like to pose about separation of church and state. If the state has the obligation, and I believe it does, to protect my right to freely choose which religion to follow, how can the same state tell me, or in this case a middle school student, that we don’t have the right to express that belief?Our country is founded on the belief that all people have basic freedoms and rights. Our right to freely choose our religion and our right to freely, without threat of punishment, express our religion has created a culture where different beliefs are tolerated. These differences, and tolerance of them, are what have made our country strong. Yet in an environment where our children should be learning to think, form educated opinions and clearly express those options, this student’s right to freedom of speech and religion where violated. This student was taught that his/her religious beliefs should not be expressed, or tolerated.Separation of church and state was meant to protect our religious freedom, not deny it.Kim BurnerGypsumThat’s security?I read in the online AP news, in a story regarding the 20-plus humans killed in a mess tent in Mosul, Iraq, the other day: “Brig. Gen. Carter F. Ham strongly suggested, but did not say outright, that the bomber was a member of the Iraqi security forces. ‘What we think is likely, but certainly not certain, is that an individual in an Iraqi military uniform, possibly with a vest-worn explosive device, was inside the facility and detonated the facility,’ General Ham said.”An impostor could have stolen a uniform or bought one on the black market. But the general suggested that the killer had exploited a hole in the enlistment screening process for Iraqi troops. Asked whether American forces have adequate intelligence about the Iraqi recruits they train, he said the vetting process ‘is sound.’ “Sound? Hell-oo? We’ve spent almost a trillion dollars on defense over the past couple of years, boys, and we’ve obviously bought NO security wands or metal detectors for the MPs at the base gates to use yet? Why not borrow a few from our domestic airports, where nobody wearing a bomb-vest packed full of ball bearings could hope to get to Concourse A, let alone into an Army base and mess tent in Mosul!Who’s getting all that money, anyway?Bill SepmeierEdwards Vail, Colorado

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